Prompt: Daenerys/Jorah - she is the breath in your lungs
Some things you lose before you even realize you have them. Others you give away, with full knowledge of the loss. Where this falls—no one is sure, least of all you, and sometimes you think—does it matter, really? And there is one answer to this, and one answer only.
This is how it starts: worn and well-loved books leaving your hands for hers while overhead the day slowly removes its cloudy veils and throws them to the restless sea, her eyes like two birds caught in flight and struggling against some invisible cage. Your fingers do not touch, your breaths do not meet, but right there, right then, something inside of you rumbles, and yawns, and wakes.
It is the thought of home, you tell yourself, thinking back on the messenger boy and the words he'd brought, that had come from the other side of the sea. Exile is a heavy weight on your shoulders always; but now there is a light inside your heart like a candle in the night, seen from afar.
There are birds inside her eyes, and when you walk away it is almost a physical pain. But hope burns, you know this already. Her brother has seen you. He looks nothing like you expected, save for the hair and eyes, but you will watch him.
Under the humming of the sea and the rumbling crowd your heart is singing, ever so quietly, of home.
You told him you were his, but it is her you spend your waking hours with. Every passing hour brings you deeper inland, and you tell your heart quiet, and it will not be for long. When she looks to you she seems a child, still: a little girl princess on her silver mare, lost beneath a sky she is not accustomed to seeing so open.
But little girls break, and cry. She does not—or if she does, she knows to do it someplace no one but her horse will see. She is brave, you think. At the very least, braver than me.
The first time she touches you it is her hand on your arm, to draw your attention and point to something for which she does not know the word. Your mouth moves to tell her, but your mind lies where her palm came to press, and remains there for hours, a strange little warm spot under the heat of the sun. The dust makes it hard to breathe.
When she rides up the column, you follow her.
She does not know it yet, but those birds inside her eyes—their wings grow stronger by the day and their feet bear talons, and they are strong enough to break away. From whom you wouldn't dare guess, but you can hear the talk along the column, and see as well as anyone how her brother steps over every line, shatters everything that ought to be left alone. When in his cups he rambles of glory and dragons; listening to him, it is easy to tell he knows nothing of either, save from childhood tales and the faint memories of a mother. It would be sad, were he not so proud. But he is, and so he seems a snake, hissing into thin air and shaking his head blindly.
In front of him his sister rides among the riders, and speaks their tongue, and learns to love their people, and he sees nothing of it; the sword at his waist is a jest, and you wonder when exactly it will grow stale.
It comes fast, the day the Beggar King finds himself furious, and on foot, and there is a look to her eyes that slams against your heart and makes your breath hang, hesitant, at the edge of your throat. Aye, the bird is finding its wings. It is known.
You tell her she reminds you of her wife, and it is the truth.
You do not tell her this: that Lynesse was dark and beautiful, but that there was a hole inside of her chest that nothing could fill, be it your name or your breath or your love. Nothing, save for gold, and then never for long.
There is one such hole inside Daenerys, you do not say, though you think it. It hungers for something it does not even know yet, and that makes it dangerous. But she is a vision in bright colors, standing before a setting sun, and when the Khal comes to her she tilts her head up, at once softer and harder than before, as though her whole world had come to breathe into her.
She reminds you of your wife, because Lynesse and her are nothing alike, the differences as stark as day and night; in the slow dusk the air crackles smoky and stale into your lungs, and you stand guard.
You know she doesn't need it—but she appreciates it, and you know that too.
He is a fortunate man, the Khal. Had she the freedom to she would not think of leaving, you believe this, you do. She looks at him the way you wished Lynesse would look at you, and your breath catches though her eyes only sweep over you.
When was it, exactly, that she started to weigh so heavy on your lungs? Your mind wonders, shuffles back into time, but it slips like water through cusped hands. The thought of home, the constant murmurs of exile, they lie on your tongue still as bitter and raw as the horse's heart must on hers.
But she swallows, keeps it down and does not heave, and surely if she can do it then so can you. In the half-dark of a tent you watch her triumph. The light streaming from above carves her out of goldcloth and blood, and grants her wings.
It is tentative, but you allow yourself to think, What if she does it? What if she is worthy? A horse fears the sea, but a creature such as she—no. If she is strong enough, then no water shall ever touch her.
It is the Khal that kills Viserys, but it is her you watch. Her eyes are like chipped flint, hard and sharp. Her words—those are waters, like a sea all the more dangerous for her quietness.
He was no dragon, she says, and suddenly you see it.
The first breath you take after that comes changed somehow, resting lighter inside your chest. There are fires inside her eyes, and you think, madly, irresistibly—I have drowned too much already.
Do you love her?
I want her safe.
Do you want her?
She is not mine.
But if she were?
You are hers, you are coming to realize. The title her brother wore was a sham, but on her it is a mantle, and the promise of a crown. You could leave her to die. For Westeros, for home—for she eats and drinks and breathes war and fires, though she shies still from it. You could leave her, and come back to your snowy islands where the sea breaks against dark cliffs and freezes in the depths of winter.
Exile, you think, and the word tastes like salt over snow.
Princess, you think, and breathe in the smoke.
You save her life, forsake the stag and his crown, and here it comes, now, the war. You've done this, you, mad old knight, and for what? The pride and the hunger in her eyes, directed at a man that isn't you.
Is it worth it? There is one answer to that, and one only.
That answer is yes.
Not now. Not like this.
Blood on her legs and blood on your hands, and fire dancing in the lamb woman's eyes as she laughs and laughs and laughs. This was not what you intended, this is all wrong, this was never—
Against your chest she is shaking. She radiates warmth, fever-hot and sick, and if she dies now—but she can't, but she won't.
She is strong, you tell yourself, and lay her on her bed. It's going to be a long night, you think, and the shadows roaming about the tent have a hungry look to them tonight. The sword on your knees is a gentle mistress, and truer than Lynesse ever was. For Daenerys she will wait, as long as needs be. It is a vow he makes, to himself and whomever might be listening in.
As long as I draw breath, you think, and realize you have been matching the rise and fall of her chest with yours.
You are a fool, Jorah Mormont, but you are too tired to do anything about it.
Fire cannot kill a dragon. She said that, once, as her brother kicked at the ground and whimpered like a beaten dog, and you repeat it now as you watch the pyre, as the flames lick to the skies and burn themselves into your eyes.
Fire cannot kill a dragon, but all you have seen of her is wings, and a taste for blood—and that is not the single province of dragons.
One by one the remaining men and women fall, curled in exhaustion and fear, but you are standing, still. Ash on your tongue and the sea in your ear, calling for a return. But you owe this to her, at least—to stand vigil, and trust. To do otherwise is unthinkable; she is a song coming from a room not far away, she is the wind over the sea, she is the hand on your shoulder, she is the breath in your lungs, searing now as the pyre crackles like an angry beast.
It is a long night, and every minute feels like drowning, every hour feels like dying. But when morning comes, oh—she is a vision in charcoal and silver, and there is not a word left in her, as though they have all been burnt away. It matters little; the green dragon on her shoulder hisses to the last stars, and the black snaps at the air, while the white flaps his little leathery wings into the ashes. There are stones inside her eyes, except they are not stones but eggs; and there is a hole inside of her, burning white-hot and hungry, and you think, one day, one day—something great and monstrous will crawl out of it, take wing, and devour a world whole.
Inside your chest something is bursting, something has burst, and you sink to your knee and you say Blood of my blood, when really you mean I love you, when really your heart is rambling and drunk and singing My queen, my queen, my queen.